NOAA NSSL’s new shared mobile radar goes eye to eye with Hurricane Ike
NOAA’s new mobile radar goes eye to eye with Hurricane Ike
While NOAA forecasters warned residents to evacuate the Texas Coast, researchers were moving into position to scan the eyewall of Hurricane Ike.
A crew from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and the University of Oklahoma rode out the storm as they recorded the it’s power in their anchored vehicles.
Positioned safely inland, the crew operated the NO-XP, NOAA NSSL and OU’s new mobile dual-polarized Doppler radar as Hurricane Ike made landfall in September.
It was the first time dual-polarized Doppler radar data has been collected on a landfalling hurricane eyewall. Radars with dual-polarization capabilities – radio waves that are sent out both horizontally and vertically – can more accurately determine precipitation types and amounts.
The radar was positioned near Lake Jackson, TX and collected data on Hurricane Ike from about 5 PM CDT through about 7 AM CDT. NO-XP was on the edge of the western portion of the eyewall, and the maximum wind gust at their location was 84 MPH. From their position, the NO-XP combined with the Houston, TX WSR-88D (HGX) radar created a dual-Doppler region that encompassed most of the western half of Ike’s eye. Another mobile radar operated by the University of Alabama-Huntsville was on the north side of Houston and collected data on the eastern half of Ike’s eye. Dual-polarization data was collected during the entire period.
NSSL’s field command vehicle and a mobile mesonet were also in Texas providing support.
The NO-XP is a new mobile radar built to study precipitation processes as well as severe weather and became operational in April 2008. Research data provided by the NO-XP will help improve the quality and accuracy of forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather.
The NO-XP’s predecessors, two SMART-Rs, or Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radars, have collected data on similar storms. In September 2001, the mobile C-band radar jointly owned by NSSL, OU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, intercepted a land-falling tropical cyclone, T.S. Gabrielle, in Florida. The SMART-Rs also captured data from Hurricane Lili in 2003 and Hurricane Isabel in 2005.